Take a Ride on the Tea Party Express

He also posted this image, along with a photo of a genital-mutilation victim:

Mark Williams Muhammad - embed.jpg

The post was briefly password-protected--it could only be viewed by purchasers of Williams' book, "Taking Back America One Tea Party at a Time"--but it is currently viewable here.

 Williams later posted a tongue-in-cheek "apology" to Hindus--not Muslims--for using the term "monkey god." (Hindus actually do worship a monkey god.) This comes after Williams posited last year that President Obama is an "Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug," defending his comments on CNN in an interview with Anderson Cooper. He has previously called Obama a "half-white racist" in an e-mail to leaders of the group. Williams has been on a crusade against Muslims, it seems, since 2004, when he wrote a series of columns in a Sacramento paper about trusting one's Muslim neighbors. 

The Huffington Post published a remarkable chronicle of Williams and his fraught involvement with the Tea Party movement, including bitter e-mails from longtime political consultant Kelly Eustis, whose firm received tens of thousands of dollars in 2009 from the PAC that runs Tea Party Express, ripping into Williams after the TPE chairman walked off the set of an interview with MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan.

The rest of the Tea Party movement does not like Mark Williams, and, as a result, some Tea Party leaders refuse to associate with Tea Party Express. Amy Kremer, a former board member of Tea Party Patriots, was forced out of that group because she wanted to continue her relationship with Tea Party Express, which has paid her a few thousand dollars in consulting fees since 2009.

"We stand absolutely in opposition to that kind of behavior, and I think that the great majority of the Tea Party movement would too," said Mark Meckler, a national co-chairman of Tea Party Patriots, a broad coalition of affiliated local Tea Party groups that says it has 15 million activists under its umbrella. "We want people to understand that that's not us."

(Williams also claims, on his blog, to be a "founding Tea Party Patriot." But he has never had anything to do with that group. "He's probably doing that just to annoy us," Meckler said.)

Robin Stublen, who leads the Punta Gorda Tea Party in Florida, has called Mark Williams a "racist" and a "jerk" who gives the movement a bad name.

There is a sense among Tea Party organizers that racism and extremism aren't really an extant problem within the movement's ranks, but that it is rather something the movement's liberal opponents seek to manufacture and highlight. (More than one Tea Party leader has suggested to me that the more egregious signs seen at rallies are actually liberal plants. Organizers of individual rallies have warned, on occasion, that participants should ferret out any such apostasy.)

Mark Williams didn't found Tea Party Express, but he has been there from the start, selected more or less to serve as its face, on-stage emcee, and spokesman in TV interviews.

Tea Party Express is a project (the main project) of the Our Country Deserves Better PAC, which was formed by the Sacramento-based Republican consulting firm Russo Marsh + Associates, the firm of longtime GOP strategist Sal Russo.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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